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Minister Cabraal dismisses calculations made by MP Hashim



Suggests he gets some coaching from Harsha de Silva, who knows subject

By Saman Indrajith

Money and Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms State Minister Ajith Nivard Cabraal told Parliament yesterday that as at the end of December 2019 total loans granted by the Central Bank to all banks for pawning advances stood at Rs. 210 billion and at the end of September 2020 it had increased by 27 billion to Rs. 237 billion.

Participating in the debate on the 2020 Appropriation Bill, the Minister dismissed the figures presented by SJB MP Hashim as being inaccurate and demanded to know where the latter had obtained the misleading information from.

MP Kabir Hashim during his speech said that it was a clear indication of the failure of the government that people had pawned jewelleries to the tune of Rs. 643 billion.

Minister Cabral said by the end of December 2019 the credit card payments stood at Rs. 131 billion but had dropped by Rs. 25 billion to Rs.126 billion. “Therefore, I urge MP Kabir Hashim to get his facts right and perhaps get some expert advice on such matters by someone like MP Harsha de Silva, who knows this subject.”

The State Minister said that the year 2020 had been a very difficult and uncertain year for the country. “For over half the year we had a minority government and during the major part of the year we were speculating on whether an election could be held. The whole world was facing difficulties with the pandemic wreaking havoc. It was only after the formation of the new government that we were able to formulate a clear policy and delegate responsibilities.

Therefore, we have been able to move forward with a clear vision during the last three months,” he said.

The Minister said that the government had faced many challenges during the first three quarters of this year apart from the Covid pandemic, due to the mismanagement and misdeeds of the previous government over the past five years.

“During the past five years under the previous regime, the 6.3 per cent growth rate we maintained from 2010 to 2014 had dropped to 2.3 per cent

For the first time in 2019 the per capita income fell by USD 227 under the yahapalana government. Now, they are trying to discredit us by claiming that the country is in a debt trap. They are hoping for the fall of the government, but they will be disappointed; we will not their dream come true.”

Minister Cabral said that the debt burden was measured as a percentage of the GDP and in 2005, it stood at 91 per cent. “However, our government had reduced it to 70 per cent by 2014 and after the Yahapalana government took over they increased it back to 87 percent. This happened as they had increased the foreign debt by 49 per cent. They increased the short term loans within a short period and now we are tasked with rectifying their mistakes. The previous government paid Rs. 1,430 billion more than we did in debt interest within their five year tenure.”

Cabraal add that the previous regime had also managed to devalue the rupee and now the present government had to pay for its predecessor’s sins.

He said that the government was committed to steering the country on a path of progress and urged all MPs to cast aside their political differences and support the passage of the Appropriation Bill.

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There’s nothing prescribed as Parliament has failed to enact legislation for contempt of court — Sumanthiran



TNA MP M. A. Sumanthiran, in an intervention in Parliament, said he was privileged to appear for Ranjan Ramanayake, a clean, honest politician in the Supreme Court and he was proud of that.

Nevertheless, Ranjan Ramanayake was convicted and sentenced. The sentence of four years’ rigorous imprisonment was unprecedented and exceptionally severe, and Parliament has a responsibility in this regard because we have not enacted a law for contempt of court, the MP noted.

At the outset, he said, “I want to flag one or two issues concerning the responsibility of the Parliament in this regard. But before I do that I am bound by law and tradition to disclose my interest in the matter. I am the counsel who appeared for Hon. Ranjan Ramanayake in the Supreme Court”.

This has an implication to the article in the constitution that the Hon. Leader of the Opposition just mentioned because it says for an offense for which the prescribed punishment is two years or more. But there’s nothing prescribed, nothing prescribed in the law because for long Parliament has failed to enact legislation for contempt of court, the TNA MP said.

Although there had been in the public as well, a lot of instances where drafts have been made, we have not done that – that is one. And by failing to do that, it has been like the freedom of the wild ass; anything can be given as a sentence and that is not a good thing.  I don’t want to go into the merits of the case or anything like that, but in this case Parliament has to take steps, to enact a law, he further said.

English law is supposed to be the substantive law because we don’t have a statute law now, and in English law itself scandalizing the court is no longer an offence of contempt of court. But unfortunately the court disregarded that, and has misdirected itself – that’s my position, Sumanthiran continued.

“But I want to bring to your notice a serious lacuna in the law with regard to a statue for contempt of court that has resulted in this unprecedented injustice to an honest Member of Parliament”, he added.

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Colombo share market gallops to all time highs



The Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) galloped last week with the benchmark All Share Price Index (ASPI) hitting an all time high on Monday and improving on that performance on subsequent trading days to close the week at 8,463 points on Friday. The more liquid S&P Index that normally trails the ASPI also gained sharply though less so than the benchmark index.

Brokers and analysts attributed the surge to prevailing low interest rates and said that people holding funds in fixed interest instruments have seen greater potential in the stock market and have so far not been proved wrong.

“Take the case of vehicle importers,” said one businessman. “With imports disallowed, cash that would have been once used to replenish inventory becomes available for investment elsewhere. The stock market is a magnet for such funds.”

Also, many companies have resorted to a share split strategy to make their shares both more liquid and more affordable on the market.

“Take the example of a fifty-rupee share split into two. Theoretically, it should then trade at Rs. 25 a share after the split. But often it does better than that at no cost to the company that had split the share because its stated capital remains what it was,” explained and analyst.

“It’s different in the case of bonus shares or scrip issues as they are called where reserves are capitalized to pay for the new shares priced at realistic values.”

Last week the Hayleys conglomerate announced share splits in over a dozen group companies. These ranged from each share being split into ten in the parent company (Hayleys) and thriving subsidiaries like Haycarb and Dipped Products while other companies like Kingsbury split a share into two.

Brokers and analysts said that the current market surge was largely driven by the Dhammika Perera controlled Hayleys and the Ishara Nanayakkara controlled LOLC groups.

Last week Hayleys announced over a dozen share splits including in its recently acquired Singer Group companies. The majority of these involved dividing each share into two though at Singer Sri Lanka each share will be split into three.

The biggest share split ever proposed is one that is pending at EB Creasy (EBC) where each share is to be split into 100. The seldom traded EBC share is quoted at the top end of the CSE sharelist. Analysts said the massive split is intended to pump liquidity into the share and make it more affordable.

“There’s a lot of retail play in the market right now with new investors who recently took some risk doing very nicely in this bull run,” a broker said.

The CSE hit rock bottom after a seven-week closure in March last year.



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Covid-19 has now spread geographically across SL



In small numbers to an extensive region

Pandemic situation in Western Province improves

by Suresh Perera

Though there are no big Covid-19 clusters at present, the dreaded virus has spread geographically across the country due to the unrestricted movement of people, a senior medical official said.

“The transmission of the contagion in small numbers to an extensive region was inevitable in a society which remains ‘open’ with inter-provincial travel happening on a daily basis”, says Dr. Hemantha Herath, Deputy Director of Public Health Services.

He said the spillover from the Western province was expected as there was an outflow of people to other districts particularly during the festive season.

“I am not blaming anybody, but a lockdown was not viable when taking into account the economic consequences and the livelihoods of the people. We could have imposed a curfew to restrict travel during the New Year, but we have to consider the fallout of such a measure”, he noted.

It true that geographically numbers have increased within a wide area, but the numbers are small and there are no big clusters as seen at Minuwangoda and Peliyagoda, the senior medical official explained.

Asked whether the pandemic has translated into a community spread as considerable positive cases continue to emerge on a daily basis, Dr. Herath replied, “no, that has not happened. If the Covid-19 situation was beyond control, we would have made a social and community transmission declaration”.

He said the pandemic situation in the Western province has improved with a dip in positive cases. However, the spillover is evident by the jump in figures at provincial level.

“We knew there was a risk, but we had to take it as locking down the country was not the solution

For example, if a Covid-19 patient infects two persons per day, there will be 200 positive cases within 100 days and one can imagine the critical situation that will emerge if the trend is allowed to continue, Dr. Herath continued.

“We are now managing under 1,000 cases per day”, he said, while assuring that the right mechanism is in place to identify positive cases through PCR and rapid antigen screening and place them under medical treatment, isolate and quarantine first contacts of patients”, he further said.

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